5 on Friday: 5 Alternatives to Google Reader

Update: NewsBlur is running well now, and I was able to check it out.

The inevitable has happened. Google Reader is going away. The service will be permanently taken down on July 1, 2013. I’ve been using Google Reader for almost as long as I’ve had a Google account, so it was a bit of rough news when it was announced. I’m an information addict, so I follow a lot of blogs,

Graphic by super-structure on Flickr

and Reader is what has always been there for me. It’s what my fingers automatically type when my code is compiling, I’m babysitting an unstable test, or I just need a five-minute mental break.

Enough crying. Time to look into finding a replacement. I laid out some requirements. I need something that can be accessed from the web and access on my iPhone and iPad through either a good mobile site or app would be a bonus. These are the five RSS readers that I found to be good alternatives.  Unlike my typical 5 on Friday posts, these are in order, from my least favorite to my favorite.

1)      Pulse – Pulse is really pretty. It feels like it was made for tablets and phones. Which it likely was. Which is also why I’m not the biggest fan of it. I’m a desktop user primarily, and a mobile user secondarily.  So this just doesn’t work for me. I think if you used a tablet/phone primarily this would be ideal for you.  I also prefer a heavier text-based layout.  This relies on tiles with images on from the post. However, it doesn’t always grab the image properly. At least it doesn’t with us.

It’s also kind of hard to find what you’re looking for in pulse. I don’t know what kind of algorithm they use, but several of the blogs I read were forced to the bottom of the search results. For example; if you search for PureGeekery.Net the top results are Discovery Channel, Food Network, CNet, and more. If I can’t add by a URL I’m just not interested.

Import from Google Reader? I didn’t see an option to import.
Access: Web, Android App, iOS App
Use this if: You don’t have a ton to import from reader, and you’re primarily a tablet/phone reader.

2)      Bloglines  – Bloglines seems like it is trying to replace both iGoogle and Google Reader with one site. It has two views, a widget view and a reader view. Widget view is the one that reminds me of iGoogle. Rows of boxes three across. The feeds are just lists of the latest posts. You can get you social feeds in here in theory, but the service was down when I tried.  To be fair, all these services are getting slammed as people are desperate for a new reader. You can set the layout to be whatever kinds of colors and backgrounds you want. Like I said, it’s a lot like iGoogle was. If you want a reader that has that feel this is definitely for you.

That’s not what I’m looking for, so I flipped it to reader view. More customization here – colors, layouts, feed order.  Basically, if you want to customize it you can. There’s a mosaic layout for the more graphically inclined, expanded if you want to see the entire post, or just a list of the titles. You can pick a layout for each individual feed, category, or the whole thing.

Import from Reader? Yes. In Widget view your folders become tabs, and in reader view they become list groups.
Access Via: Web only.
Use this if: You still miss iGoogle and are a bit of a control freak. You don’t read from your phone ever, and your tablet rarely.

3)      Bloglovin’  – I found Bloglovin’ because I started getting traffic from there. It’s a simple reader. You get the first part of the post, a picture if available, and you can click-through to read from there. As a blogger, I like this feature because I can see the traffic that I’m getting. If you just read my blog in the reader, it doesn’t show in the simple metrics that WordPress provides. Which probably explains why I see Bloglovin’  referring more users to Pure Geekery than I do with Google Reader.  I also like that it shows me data about who is subscribed to my blog through Bloglovin’. There is also a toolbar of sorts (don’t worry, it’s not an actual tool bar, they just display it at the top of the site) that allows you to flip through your unread posts, share posts, or favorite posts. You can get rid of this toolbar if you hate it with one click.

I like that you get a profile on Bloglovin’ although if they’re integrating social it feels very beta.  You can invite friends, but you can’t find them searching by email or Facebook. You can’t follow users if you did. While you can see all the blogs a user is subscribed to, they aren’t sorted as the user has them. With some work this will be a good feature, but now it’s just not super useful. The iOS app also feels beta. For example, the blogs you’re following are just listed. They aren’t in the folders you created on the web.

Import from Reader? Yes.  But you lose all sorting.
Access Via: Web, iOS App, Android App, Mobile Web
Use this if: You’re a blogger. You like being able to send your friends a list of what you read. You don’t go mobile often.

5)      Feedly – If you access your reader from the office, be forewarned. This requires Firefox or Chrome with a downloadable extension. If that’s not an option, then feedly is not an option. Luckily for me, this is an option because I really like feedly. It has a nice, clean interface. Nothing too cluttered, nothing too Spartan. It has an easy way to share, bookmark, tag, and keep posts for later. I like that I can view my “today” posts when my feed feels overwhelming.  I have lots of layout options, but it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as Bloglines. I appreciate the drag and drop sorting I can do with the blogs and categories.  The Twitter/Facebook feed integration is nice, and off to the side so it’s not overwhelming or distracting. There is built in advertising there too, which is a bit off-putting, but I kind of assume all these services are mining my data anyway so I don’t mind. The mobile app and the web are done well, which is a nice change from the choose one I ran into with the other services.

Import from Reader? Yes.  Simple one click import, no download/upload nonsense. Keep all sorting.
Access Via: Web, iOS App, Android App
Use this if: You want a simple import, and a simple layout. You use both web and mobile about the same.

Ok I know I said five, but here’s the thing. At the time I’m writing this NewsBlur is unusable. It’s under an incredible load, and it’s struggling. I don’t feel like I can give it a fair review. It seems really interesting with the social promotion of stories and the algorithm to know what you want to see more of. Plus, I  have to confess, I started out a little biased because it has the support of Cory Doctorow for whom I have the utmost respect.  I’m sure before too long it’ll be running smoothly, but deadlines (even self-imposed ones) are deadlines.

2 Responses to “5 on Friday: 5 Alternatives to Google Reader”
  1. Chris says:
    • Nicole says:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

15 − 13 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.